My own emotional reactions to perceived suffering—mine and others—were always so intense that I was often paralyzed into depression. By the time I was a teenager, I already knew that in order to survive, I would have to make peace with the patriarchy.
Random investigations into the nature of reality proved to me that the foul concept of brawn over brain had distorted the collective psyche; everywhere—among rich and poor, educated and illiterate—I saw perverted masculinity. Instead of cherishing their womenfolk, men seemed to want to triumph over them. And by doing so, they smashed feminine self-esteem to smithereens. It was as if their own sisters, wives and daughters were arch rivals to be diminished and trounced. As a result, sexual union was often reduced to the usurpation of the female body, and marriage, in many cases, to no more than a legal form of rape.
Fortunately I stumbled onto the priceless tools of eastern philosophy in my late teens and was able to transform my bitter perspective. Focusing on the theories of karma and reincarnation, I trained myself to apply this new spiritual knowledge to all situations, past and present, with broad and generous strokes. My intent was to restore myself to peace so I could get on with life—and hurray, it worked! Soon everything really did begin to fall into place. Best of all, the process turned out to be bright, quick and beautiful.
Contrary to mainstream thinking, karmic software is not designed to punish; instead it throws those who consistently abuse others into situations where perpetrator becomes victim. Gradually we come to see that what each of us perceives with our finite human eyes is but a fragment of the staggeringly grand cosmic picture. We see there is ultimately no separation, that we are truly One. This process produces empathy and the melting of destructive patterns. And therefore karma is our friend, for its noble aim is to help us evolve.
We may see a husband striking his wife, for instance, and become gripped by a terrible anger; however, not being omniscient, we cannot see the events (in this or past incarnations) that preceded this beating. Perhaps the woman being brutalized has brutalized; the molested child has molested; the honest man reduced to poverty by a ruthless rival has himself been a lethal shark.
None of which means that we should stand by passively and watch evil being done; on the contrary! Humans of integrity must always be ready and willing to protect the weak, the gullible and the innocent, even while accepting that there is more to any picture than meets the ordinary eye; in simple words, when we step in to help, we must do so as instruments of the Divine, and not from the limited ego.
In an ideal world, man and woman would consider each other equal, but different. After all, in any partnership, one seeks to ally oneself with another who is endowed with skills or resources that we ourselves do not have. It requires no big stretch of the imagination to see how much stronger a couple can be when there is respect, love, harmony and co-operation between them.
As for those extraordinary men and women who commit themselves to celibacy in order to liberate themselves from the chains of mundane existence, they too must find ways to unite male and female aspects within themselves—a process which entails generating a healthy respect for all facets of their inner being. For both the committed couple and the celibate, Tantra is one teaching that offers a variety of profound solutions.
The human race appears to have oscillated between diametrically opposed archetypes—absolute patriarchal power, and the holistic paradigm of ancient cultures, where both male and female are revered as divine halves of a whole. Physical sex alone can never satiate the human soul; what is called for is the intimate bonding of fundamentally different equals, and the genuine wonder and appreciation of one for the other. In so empowering each other, ancient wounds heal within the complex human psyche: man is encouraged to grow into awesome grandeur, and woman reclaims her sacred role as primal healer.
If we are to transform prevalent disturbing male-female equations, each of us must first become aware of the insidiously deep layers of conditioning that have seeped into the collective subconscious. Then we must shine our investigative torch fearlessly onto our own dysfunctional ways of viewing the opposite sex, and melt the blocks within our own psyches—by any means necessary. To refine one’s own self, as one of my gurus said, is to radically refine our experience of the world.
And while it can be agonizing—sometimes even impossible—to use the mind to unearth embedded the subconscious codes that block us from giving and receiving joy, it is a task worth leaping into, for the rewards can be rich.
For those who wish to begin this herculean but wildly exciting task, I recommend seeking out an authentic form of meditation—such as Atma-Vichara (Self-investigation), which is the direct path to higher consciousness as taught by Ramana Maharshi. As committed seekers have discovered through the ages, direct investigation of one’s true nature has the power to dissolve all relative darkness, along with the countless fear-based separations humans automatically set up as barriers between self and other.
After all, in the realm of the Absolute we are neither man nor woman, ugly nor beautiful, young nor old, rich nor poor, intelligent nor dumb—instead, we are, every single one of us, the perfect manifestation of one single energy, whose ground is the infinite and incandescent Divine.